Mass Historia
Hints, Tips and Musings on Living History and Vintage Dance
RSS Feed
The Gentleman's Page
About Mass Historia
Social Daunce Irregulars
Art Deco Society
Join the Dance & History mailing list
E-mail Address


« A Costumer's Yard Sale | Main | AOL - The Final Chapter »

Middle Aged Swashbuckling

This is something of a departure for me, as I try to avoid too much personal stuff (I find self indulgent blogs deeply boring). I will, however make a slight departure in this case, as the topic has something of a historical connection. I would like to speak in praise of the one sport that has ever held my interest: fencing (I don't consider dancing a sport, and dislike attempts to make it one)

In High School and College, I was a fencer. It was how my friends and I passed our leisure time, and it was how I more than fulfilled my PE requirement at UC Berkeley. I fenced all three weapons (foil, saber and epee) as well as leaping about with various simulated rapiers, daggers etc.

Then, I graduated from College and went into the Army and I abruptly stopped. There was no one to fence with and no where to fence, and while I told myself and others that if some convenient opportunity presented itself, I would fence again, my weapons rusted, my belly outgrew my fencing jacket, and my fencing glove shriveled into a horrible mummified claw.

Then one day, Reseda had some sort of civic festival where they closed down Reseda Blvd., hired bands etc. and I saw a bunch of people in bad pirate costumes strutting about. These pirates seemed to be issuing from a storefront on the Blvd., which had on it a sign that said "Swordplay". A fencing school had moved in three blocks from my house.

Well, since I had spent my life saying that I would fence again if only it were convenient, I had to fence again or my entire life would be a lie.

I am now fencing every Monday evening. I would not say that it's like I never stopped. My style is still as reckless and wild as it ever was. I have always relied on speed and in-your-face aggression over refined skill, and sometimes it works for me and sometimes it doesn't. However, as I approach half a century of life, my body is not quite what it was when I was twenty.

What I will say though, is that I am having a great time. It's terrific exercise, and the prospect of having to keep up with teen agers has motivated me to work much harder at the gym than I did when I had no specific objectives. Further, I have found it to be a marvelous stress reliever.

An excellent example is a few weeks ago when my stomach was tied in knots to the point where I thought I might have some sort of bug. However, when I picked up that saber and started hacking away at my teacher, my stomach ailment was instantly cured.

In this modern life, we have few outlets for stress, which has a lot to do with our instinctive fight-or-flight response being triggered, without our being able to either fight or flee within the constraints of modern society. Well, when you are fencing, that instinct can find an outlet that doesn't result in the police being called.

In short, I love fencing and recommend it to anyone whose body is still capable of a certain amount of violent leaping about. Like anything, it's best to start when you are young but it can still be a great activity if you start later in life. It's also a great way to get your lard-assed kids away from the computer and doing something that will develop their strength, stamina and coordination.

"Swordplay" has two locations: the original one in Burbank and the new one in Reseda. They also have classes in theatrical fencing, given that this is Los Angeles. I particularly recommend their Reseda facility, as I want it to stay in business, and I would like a bit of adult company (Monday, 6 PM, epee, be there, aloha)

There is also something called the Los Angeles International Fencing Center. I really don't know anything about it but here's its website:


I liked your blog on 'Middle-Age Swashbuckler'. I have been involved with fencing for almost 33 years and I know most everyone knows me. I know of both places you mention, but they are both close to you.

Since you promote dancing all around Southern California, not just near you, it would be good to mention two other web sites which is the official web site of United States Fencing Association, which like you promote historical dancing they promote fencing. From each of them you can find local clubs & divisions, high school & college fencing, and even military fencing.